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The Hero's Journey and Basic Storytelling - Video

In my prior post, I introduced Visual Perception, which is part 1 of a three part video series from the Webinar, Your PowerPoint Sucks - and what you can do about it.

I posted part 2 in a blog on LinkedIn today with part 2 of the video, Your PowerPoint Sucks, Pt 2. Basic Storytelling.

The following video included below is part 2 of the series and it is a primer on basic storytelling. It runs for just over 8 minutes and introduces the "Hero's Journey" story structure and the need for contrast and tension in your presentation or story.

Will be of interest to sales people, sales enablement professionals and marketers wishing to improve their ability to tell stories.

If you or your sales enablement or marketing team needs help with the underlying messaging and storyline to bring your presentations to life, please contact us.

Your PowerPoint Presentations Suck Pt. 1 Visual Perception -Video

boring powerpoint resized 600Do your PowerPoint sales presentations suck? - be honest.

If they look anything like the spoof slide below, then this series of three 10-minute videos will be of interest. 

PowerPoint is ubiquitous, often maligned and most often misused... but as a presentation medium it has great utility.

We just need to get better at using PowerPoint and to improve the stories and visual elements that we use to create our presentations.

Your PowerPoint Sucks and what you can do about it

Part 1. A brief primer on visual perception with some important concepts.
Part 2. A primer on basic storytelling.
Part 3. A primer on visual storytelling.

I'm Blushing - I Sent a Piece of Naked Content

inmailEditors, journalists, marketers, sales operations and sales enablement professionals, who curate content for readers to share, should always give it a content header to create value for the receiver.

A content header is an explanatory summary that precedes the content body or link, to help the reader to quickly determine if the content fits their requirement, is useful in other ways, or will work for their customer use-case.

The job of content is to get shared and passed along. A content header multiplies the likelihood that a piece of content will get shared, by an order of magnitude.

A Content Header has 3 Purposes

  1. It helps the person creating or preparing the content to think clearly about the purpose of the content, the audience and the key themes so it will resonate with the content consumer.
  2. It helps when requisitioning content from marketers, agencies, and external writers.
  3. It helps people to deploy the content more effectively, so that it will get shared and read. 
When someone creates a piece of content in most businesses today, it may get used once or twice and never see the light of day again.

When content is prepared in a collaborative content ecosystem, it gets created once with a content header, and is available for consumption and reuse by marketing, demand management, sales, channels and support.

Content header enables a fast and convenient, single point of access to enterprise content, regardless of content type or where it is located.

While there are no standards for content headers, this is the one that we use... feel free to use it in your content operations.

Content Header Template: 

Thanks to Jim Burns of Avitage for this short content header.

Content Type and Title:
Target Audiences (Segments/Roles): 
Purpose / Use Cases:   
Data Content Indicates:
Related Content: 
Key points (Facts, Images, Stories):   

The following is a true story and a lesson learned.

Earlier this year I sent a link to a whitepaper to a new contact. My contact, (Bill) is an important player in the target account and I felt that the whitepaper had useful insights that Bill would appreciate.

By sending it, he would understand my point of view a little better and after reading the article he would better understand how we could help him achieve his objectives… at least that was my line of thinking at the time.

It is big whitepaper, 170+ pages entitled Tech Trends 2014 and it was produced by Deloitte Australia. Lots of excellent articles and two that I found really aligned with my thinking on couple of disruptive technologies. 

Buried on P 149 there was an article of particular interest to Bill. Here is an excerpt of the message I sent to Bill.

Rules for Buyers During a B2B Sales Call

face to face meetingThis blog post is a set of behavioral rules for B2B technology buyers to follow,  so as to maximize the value and the time of the hard working, honest and ethical salesperson sitting across the desk or on the phone. 

It will also serve to minimize the inconvenience and continuing lost profits the buyer's company is making without your solutions.

The Rules

  1. When a salesperson calls you on the phone, you will stop what you are doing, pick up the phone and smile when you say, "Hello, this is (Your Name), how are you?"
  2. You will be amused with the variety blurting-out, fumbling, 90-second introductions without breathing, awkward silences and obvious lack of preparation, professionalism and nervousness of the salesperson. 
  3. After they have finished their intro, you will ask, "how can I help you"? 
  4. You will refrain from hanging up, giving excuses about being in a meeting, or chastising your administrator, who let this call slip through.
  5. If the salesperson is planning a trip to your location in the near future, you will consider it a stroke-of-luck and make space on your calendar to accommodate an in-person call.
  6. You will hear the salesperson out and never ask them to send more information in an email or to call back at a more convenient time for them, because what they have to say could save you and your company serious money.... even get you promoted!
  7. You will answer all questions the salesperson asks to the best of your ability, regardless of their nature, how many they ask or the irrelevance to your role and business.
  8. You will disclose any pain or discomfort in your physical condition, even a minor back-ache, because salespeople ar looking for pain and may have something in their bag that can help.
  9. You will inquire about the features of their products and be curious about who else is using them and the benefits they are getting and welcome any opportunity to see the product in action in a live demo.
  10. You will smile knowingly as the sales rep plugs in the Lap-top, fumbles with the LCD technology, or these days, more coolly passes you the iPad and brings up the PowerPoint presentation or video clip. 
  11. Most importantly, during the presentation you will refrain from playing with your smart-phone and stay focused on the bullets and message, because there is infinite wisdom, somewhere in the presentation.
  12. You will wait until the salesperson has emptied your bucket of potential objections and enjoy the festival of the salesperson digging holes for themselves while trying to counter them.
  13. You will never promise to get back to the salesperson unless you truly mean it.
  14. You will nod and promise not to smirk when the salesperson asks any question beginning with "If we could show you a way...." 
  15. You will be grateful when the salesperson interrupts you before you have finished your sentence (while you are discussing the issues that are important to you) and then tells you what you need to do (use their product), because the sooner you find out, the better.
  16. You promise to engage any salesperson with an earnest and professorial look on their face; possibly wearing a chalk-dusted sports coat with leather elbow-pads, carrying a pipe, wearing a sword on their hip or carrying a lance, or even wearing a measuring tape and carrying a pair of scissors. They are Challengers and are going to challenge your assumptions and to teach you about the hidden jewels in your business, that only they can help you discover.
  17. This is the biggie - never lie to a salesperson- we can tell!
If you are a sales professional or manager and find this slightly amusing and would like to up-level the conversations you or your sales team is having with buyers, we can help.

Content to Support Sales Conversations

We can help sales, marketing and sales enablement leaders with content deployment, content strategy and to create the conversational content that your team needs to avoid the above, including:
  • Ideal customer profiles, including persona's, problems and causes,
  • Relevant capabilities and competitive positioning,
  • Call preparation guides,
  • Why Change and Point of View conversations,
  • Inventories of emails and customer stories,
  • Key questions to ask and key objections and counters,
  • Facts, data, analyst reports, insights,
  • Visual support, video, webinars and ebooks,
  • Curated 3rd party content to nurture opportunities.
If you believe that content is an important enabler of sales success, you are invited to find out more.  

If you found this amusing or have committed any of the sins above, or know someone who needs to read the rules, please pass it on.

The Role of Content in Ramping New Sales Hires

sales ramp

Onboarding and Ramping New Hires  

Executives responsible for hiring and ramping new marketing and sales hires have a whole host of challenges in finding and hiring good candidates and in getting them productive. For new marketers it's usually a brief, sink or swim induction that starts with a content immersion and then the writing begins. 

Onboarding new sales hires is a longer process, commencing with indoctrination in the product; demo, presentation, pricing, followed by CRM and sales process training.

After meetings with the sales manager to discuss territory and key accounts, the sales rep is off-and-running.
Unfortunately for sales reps in many companies, from this point on, they are on their own. They have to source their own leads, figure out how their customers buy their product and through trial and error, how to sell the product.  

Sound familiar? 

It should, this is pretty standard stuff in mainstream technology companies.  

For a straightforward product with a 1-month sales cycle time, it might take 3-4 months for a rep to become fully productive. For a complex enterprise solution with a 6-month sales cycle, it will likely take a year or more.  

Dave Kurlan’s formula for Ramp up time = the length of your sales cycle + the length of your learning curve + 30 days. Dave adds a couple of months to ramp time for either lack of industry knowledge or lack of sales experience.  

The only variable in Dave’s formula is the length of your learning curve.
CSO Insights suggests that the factors causing long ramp-times are:
  • Higher customer expectations (What do you know about me and my business?),
  • Increasing product complexity,
  • Complexity of the selling environment and more product offerings,
  • Entry into new markets,
  • Global competition (via the Internet) introducing new competitors
  • Bad hires, read the Bad Breath vs No Breath article.
From the same CSO Insights 2014 Sales Performance Optimization Study, only 36.6% of companies are able to ramp salespeople to full productivity inside 6 months. 59.7% of respondents take 6 or more months to ramp salespeople to full productivity. 

Sales Ramp and Productivity Issues

In sales there is no hiding a slow start, but it takes several months before problems are visible.
But there are other telltale signs that indicate problems in ramping salespeople;
  • Sales reps complain of poor quality marketing leads.
  • Despite making lots of calls (activity), forecasts and revenue are weak.
  • Salespeople will try to sell lower cost, point-products to departmental users, instead of going for the enterprise platform sale, (except it takes 10 times as many deals to make up for an enterprise sale).
  • A small handful of senior sales exec’s. are “knocking it out of the park”, but the rest of the team is struggling.
  • New hires become frustrated at their lack of success and quit.
Once a new rep has been hired, the only levers you have to increase the speed of ramping salespeople are through more effective transfer of selling knowledge, increasing the effectiveness of selling tools provided, and on-the-job coaching from sales managers.  

If you are a product-marketing manager or sales-enablement leader, what can you do to help new hires, and established salespeople to become more successful, faster?  

It Starts with the Message  

Weak and ineffective product-focused content is a primary cause of long sales ramp-times. Salespeople take many months to synthesize and translate the product messages in their own mind, into something that will actually connect with buyers.

In 9 out of 10 meetings with buyers, B2B salespeople fail to contribute value, beyond product features and pricing, (Sirius Decisions).

Buyers don’t need more product information from salespeople; they can get all that in a couple of mouse-clicks. Buyers need more insight from salespeople. They expect salespeople to have some knowledge of their business, their competitive environment and their likely challenges, in order to contribute value.  

Plus buyers need to hear how others have succeeded in overcoming similar challenges.  

When contemplating the above scenarios, a couple of questions come to mind;
  • How effective is your existing value-messaging in relating to the problems your ideal customers really care about?
  • How long does it take for salespeople to develop a point-of-view that resonates with buyers?
  • We all want salespeople having conversations and telling stories, - do you arm them with an inventory of conversation points and stories?
  • Are those stories mapped to buyer problems, roles, buying stage, competitive context, so they don’t have to figure them out?
  • Are they ready to be delivered and in a form that is immediately useful?
  • How well do your salespeople create solicitation and follow-up emails, - how long does it take them?
  • How many times do your salespeople tell buyers, “I’m going to have to get back to you on that”?
How much more effective would your salespeople be - and how much faster could they become fully productive, if they had everything they needed, right at their finger-tips?

How much faster could they learn, if they had the content they need and an ecosystem where they could share knowledge and learn from others, and all they had to do is use it?  

Structure Drives Behavior  

What if from day-1 in the company, a new sales hire could tap the experience of the most successful sales reps?  

What if you could provide new hires with content structured in a logical way that salespeople want to use it, including:
  • Ideal customer profiles, including buyer problems and likely causes,
  • Relevant capabilities and positioning,
  • Call preparation guides,
  • Why Change and Point of View conversations,
  • An inventory of customer stories,
  • An inventory of emails, with tested subject lines and calls to action that work,
  • Key questions to ask and key objections and counters?

Coaching Sales Managers to Coach Salespeople

The real secret to reducing sales ramp times and unlocking sales performance, lies with sales managers.  

Sales managers must be fully committed to the onboarding and behavior change program… isn’t effective onboarding a behavior change program?  

Sales managers must fully understand the messaging and frameworks provided and how to use them and be capable of coaching salespeople in using the tools provided. 

Where to From Here?

Much of the above knowledge exists as tacit knowledge inside the heads of the top-performing sales reps and sales managers.
The reason new hires fail, isn’t because they were bad hires, are dumb or lack motivation, most of the time it’s because they cannot tap the pool of existing knowledge and must learn it all for themselves through trial and error.  

My colleague Jim Burns likes to say, “If it’s not written down, it does not exist”.  
To move from “random acts of content” to a disciplined approach to capture and maintain content to support acustomer conversations that everyone can use, is a major 5-step undertaking.
  1. Top-down commitment from executive management is required to create the sales support infrastructure to reduce sales ramp times. 
  2. It requires new people (sales enablement and sales operations), executing new processes with the right enabling technology.
  3. Customer, content and conversation frameworks are required, along with process to capture and synthesize knowledge in a useful form. 
  4. A content delivery platform that enables salespeople to quickly locate, personalize and use information is required. 
  5. Collaborative sharing of knowledge and best practices and a process of tracking and continuously improving content and sales performance.
If you would like more information or help with developing customer, content and conversation frameworks or migrating your current marketing and sales enablement content to a more effective content delivery platform, please contact us.

HubSpot Redefines CRM in an Integrated Sales & Marketing Platform

This is not an objective view of the new HubSpot CRM product, as I am a HubSpot customer and a HubSpot reseller and have not yet had the opportunity of using it. 

It is a first impression from watching the demo video. 

Based on first impressions, Bravo HubSpot!, Bravo!

The new HubSpot CRM platform finally provides one single, integrated ecosystem to manage the complete customer life-cycle and it does the CRM work for you.

The new CRM capability combined with the new Sidekick product provides context, relevant information and enables salespeople to call or email directly with HubSpot. It captures your email or phone conversation with prospects, manages the status of the deal and populates company information and key players, making it so much easier to do your job as a salesperson.

I urge you to watch the video to expand your perception of the state of sales and marketing automation.

Best of all, its free in the HubSpot product.

Watch this video from 1.15 onwards.

Tags: ,

The Half Life of a Learned Skill is 5 years - Toward a New Culture of Learning

new culture of learningI was in the audience when John Seely Brown and Prof. Peter Denning took the stage at the SRII conference in San Jose, CA earlier this year - what a privilege
On each desk for the session was a small, but important book "A New Culture of Learning", written by John Seely Brown and Douglas Thomas. 

According to Denning and Brown, "The half-life a learned skill is 5-years" - this means that much of what you learned 10 years ago is obsolete and half of what you learned 5 years ago is irrelevant.

This article and the review of A New Culture of Learning will be of interest to professionals in any field to encourage thinking about new ways of training, delivering and acquiring knowledge as no-one is immune from knowledge obsolescence.
It will be of particular interest to sales leaders, sales trainers and educators as it captures some of the comments made from the SRII stage during the Denning, Seely-Brown conversation. 

We simply cannot learn and know what we need to know to stay current, relevant and to lead, using the old ways of education/training and learning.

It means the learning experience itself must change, it must be immersive (doing it while learning, like white-water rafting), social involving peers,physical as well as virtual and available on-demand, via the cloud and delivered to mobile devices as well as PC's.

Why Read This?

The book, "A new Culture of Learning" is an important read for professionals, educators and trainers and food for thought for business leaders looking to the future. 
The big idea is to understand the profound changes brought about by technology. It's not about school reform. People are learning by doing and asking fresh questions.

Trainers and educators are looking for new approaches to sales training and on the job education, because traditional "product-focused" methods are producing poor outcomes from training investments.

Long ramp-times in technology sales remain a problem, yet product cycles are getting shorter. We have to learn faster and on the job. Buyers are self-educating and salespeople are being marginalized to the configuration and discounting-end of the buying process. Salespeople have to get better fast and this means learning new skills and competencies to remain relevant - and employed.

The Learning Process is Poorly Understood

What happens to learning when we move beyond the prior stable century and millennium of learning to the fluid 21st century, where technology is constantly changing and creating new opportunities to reinvent learning and knowing?

It's very disruptive to the educational establishment. "The past as a solution set is no longer a viable option", John Rendon.

The new learning culture is a familiar dynamic as it encompasses our notions of games, play & imagination.
  • Play is defined as tension between rules of game and freedom to act within the those rules.
  • Play happens within a medium for learning - it creates a culture in which information, ideas and passion grow.
  • A new culture of learning allows us to recognize, harness & institutionalize these ideas.
  • Requires a shift in thinking about education.

Arc of Life Learning

Arc of life learning comprises the daily activities in our lives that keep us learning, growing and exploring. Play, questioning and imagination are at the heart of arc of life learning.

We can augment learning in nearly every facet of education and stage of life, using peer learning and the process of creating and making or mastering something new. Learning requires content - which can be taught, skill -which can be mentored, and disposition - which can be cultivated.

The following concepts will be familiar to anyone who has ever played massively participative and immersive video games, such as World of Warcraft. 

We need to think about how from our first breath, we begin to learn; reflect on how children learn and the wonder of "why".

When we go to school and start being taught content so we can pass tests, we stop experiencing the wonder of learning and play.

There is a huge difference between learning and being taught.


      1. We live in a massive and fast evolving information network - with unlimited access to learning about anything.
      2. We are bounded and structured by our environments; we must exploit our ability to build and experiment within boundaries.
Neither of these frameworks alone does it, need both together and interplay in-between.
The new culture of learning gives freedom to make the general personal and to share personal experience that adds to the general flow of knowledge.

Why do we need it?

Traditional Education is Broken

Traditional education structures are no longer keeping up with pace of change. We need to move from this impersonal fact-based stimulus-response method to a learning environment. 

Environments don't break.

Lots of people are calling for the demolition of the traditional education system.
A better question is how will schools blend or fail to blend with the freedom and wealth of the digital information network
      • We need to evolve thinking from "fixing a problem" to "growing a solution".
      • Our traditional concept of teaching = learning about the World
      • New culture = learning through engagement within the World
From proving we "get it" to embracing what we don't know, questioning it and continuing to ask the questions to learn more and more incrementally and exponentially.

"Most of what we know will remain relatively unchanged for a long enough period to justify the effort of transferring it". This is a pitfall in 21st century thinking.

Ask anyone on the Internet 10 years ago, what's changed - everything.

Learning to embrace change is a new mantra. Learning is constant.

Learning is not an isolated process of absorption of facts that turn into knowledge, that was a 20th. Century education mindset.

We need to think of learning as a cultural and social process of constantly engaging the changing World around us.

Children and Play

Children make use of play and imagination to make sense of the constantly changing World around them to learn and grow. 
      • Play is how children make sense of the World
      • Play is a strategy for embracing change in a World in constant flux
Workplace learning is already a big initiative in innovative companies - keeping and growing good employees is the lifeblood of progressive companies - we need imagination and play at work in an environment to learn.

Most workplaces moribund.

The challenge is to marry structure and freedom to create something altogether new.

Peer-Peer Learning

      1. The old ways of learning can no longer keep up
      2. New media and digital are making peer-peer learning easier and more natural
      3. All equals, from teacher-student to mentors, guides and participants
      4. Not revolutionary, just ignored
      5. University students immersed in a peer learning environment, classroom 3-4 hours/day
Peer-peer learning is amplified by collective participation.

Learning collectives

Blogs are learning collectives. A good blog is a medium for learning and creates a space for a collective to emerge where personal experience can be shared and individuals learn and everyone in the collective benefits. - (So please make comments when you read something worthwhile, don't just like it.)

Toward a New Culture of Learning

Arc of life learning never stops. 
      • 21st. Century learning = doing, watching, experiencing
      • Current perception of learning filtered through lens of education. "You teach I learn"
University is a rich tacit immersion in an environment that values learning itself.
Surrounded by vast resources, academic culture, where students make connections among all resources. University life for students grounded in experience & deeply personal.

The new learning culture provides freedom to explore interests and passions within bounded constraints.

Traditional classroom Q&A was used to learn and master specific information. This is an obsolete model teaching obsolete facts.

Reverse it: Questions are more important than answers. Key to learning is not application of technique, but their invention. Asking questions to find answers that really matter to students is a continuous process and a starting point for learning - invites us to ask more and better questions.

Learning as inquiry: Results in useful information regardless of outcome.

Ask better questions using tacit knowledge + imagination. 
Indwelling + familiarity with ideas, processes & practices so it becomes 2nd nature. "Polanyi" 

Cornerstones: Knowing, Making & Playing

Knowing: You live to learn
Learning and the acquisition of knowledge has given humans all kinds of evolutionary advantages.

Knowing ->Shift from "what" to "where" - context is important in aconstantly changing world.

New information economy is more about how to find and evaluate information on a given topic and less about a stockpile of information and facts.

Making: Putting context to what is being created- through hands on experience - carries more of the message.

Playing is increasingly important.

Playing Example: World of Warcraft

Massively Multiplayer Online Games MMOG's, such as World of Warcraft are large complex, constantly evolving social systems; their perpetual newness is part of the attraction.

Players learn by experimentation, play with tools in a virtual world, repeatedly making adjustments and recording results.

MMOG's accommodate different learning modes, players use methodical trial and error experimentation or intuitively letting experience guide steps.

New culture of learning nurtures collective indwelling. The group learns and knows new things through doing and experiencing.

Prior to now, not possible, lacked ability, resources to make it scalable and powerful.

With access to endless supply of collectives, learning driven by passion and play is poised to significantly alter and extend our ability to think, innovate and discover in ways not previously possible.



But a word of caution, gamification is only a part of the puzzle and "mandated play isn't really play" Suart Luman.

The new culture of learning allows us to ask questions that have never before been imaginable.

After reading this book, you will have more questions than answers about how to begin to create a new culture of learning in your life and your company... and that I suspect is precisely the author's intention.

Read the book

Chris Anderson: Makers - The New Industrial Revolution (Video)

makersI read an article today that mentioned Chris Anderson (former editor of Wired Magazine) and his presentation on Vimeo entitled, Makers: the New Industrial Revolution. I was so enthralled with his talk I wanted to share it.

"The idea of a factory is in a word, changing. Just as the Web democratized innovation in bits, a new class of rapid prototyping technologies, from 3D printers to laser cutters, is democratizing innovation in atoms. You think the last two decades were amazing? Just Wait." Chris Anderson.

The stories are personal and compelling and the examples of his own and his familes use of these now almost free technologies are a lesson for parents, grandparents and our children.

This video was made in Feb 2013 at the Confluence Maker event in Rome Georgia, USA. It runs for one hour, but you will not want to turn it off once you get going.

Turn Marketing Messaging & Sales Content into Sales Conversations

unstructured contentAsk any marketer or sales enablement professional how many marketing/sales messaging projects they have completed or participated in the past 10 years and you will hear anywhere from none to over a dozen.

Ask those same professionals, how many of those projects actually paid a dividend on the investment and effort to create them and you will get a lot of head shaking.

Who needs more messaging that fails to deliver?

There are many reasons why messaging fails to deliver value, but these three are top of my list:
  • Messages are internally focused and product-centric, and not relevant to stakeholders,
  • Messaging is not in from that is immediately usable by salespeople (trapped in document containers, in portals),
  • Salespeople don’t have the right skills to use it.
Once a messaging project is completed and delivered, usually in Word documents, or PowerPoint, the messaging is emailed to the sales team, uploaded into a Portal somewhere and then it becomes invisible. 

The problem with this traditional approach is that the core messaging is not converted into content that can be easily used and shared in the different forms required by salespeople, sales enablement professionals and marketers who need it.

Think of messaging as source material, to be mined and reworked to create content to bring it to life.

Jim Burns of Avitage, published a great article in the Selling Power blog yesterday, entitled, "Turn Content into Sales Currency" and I excerpted some of following text to illustrate my point on content.

Why Salespeople Need Unstructured Content

Messaging must be enriched and freed from its container to become useful as content.

Once text is freed from container, it becomes unstructured content.
But unstructured content can be more than just text and includes images, video, graphics, audio and hyperlinks.

Salespeople need inventories of unstructured content that is buyer-relevant and sales-ready for the top 3 customer problems, selling purpose, buyer’s role, buying stage and even industry context. 

Specific examples of inventories include the following:
  • Emails & LinkedIn messages (for all key selling scenarios and versions)
  • Customer stories and proof points
  • Facts, trends, and research findings
  • Answers to customer questions and objections
  • Tweetables and LinkedIn and Google+ short posts
  • Curated articles (company and third party) with summary explanations
  • Key messages – recommended language and phrases
  • Links to key blog posts and landing pages
Recently I completed the initial phase a joint project for a global technology company with Jim Burns of Avitage. We collaborated on a sales and marketing message and content development, which included creating much of the above unstructured content.

This project was a learning experience for me in creating a new library of unstructured, sales-ready content assets using the Avitage content creation methodology. 
These assets are built from foundational messaging templates, but created in an unstructured form that can be easily accessed and immediately used by salespeople. They are delivered in the WittyParrot content delivery platform and are easily maintained, curated, shared and enriched on an ongoing basis.

If you would like to take your company's sales and marketing content to a higher level, I invite you to use my schedule link to set a convenient time for us to talk. 


Mark Gibson's Guide to Carmel and the Monterey Peninsula

18th pebble


Pebble Beach, Carmel and the Monterey Peninsula are jewels that are not to be missed on a trip to Northern California. Lots of friends in the technology business from Silicon Valley and all over World visit us here in Pebble Beach and we get many similar questions. This is a quick reference guide for first-time visitors and those who would like to know more about visiting Carmel-Monterey area. 

"If I had only one more round to play, I would choose to play it at Pebble Beach. I've loved this course from the first time I saw it. - Jack Nicklaus.

This is the 18th at Pebble Beach, taken from The Bench... imagine yourself here.

"Pebble is a piece of sacred ground. They say it's the greatest meeting of land and water in the world." - Johnny Miller

"The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco" 
Mark Twain did not say this, however it's good advice for visitors - bring a jacket. The temperature in the region varies between 45-70, it's seldom hot, but often cool. Lots of people get a shock when they arrive from the Bay Area; when the temperature is in the 90's in San Jose, it can be 60F in Monterey/Carmel, due to the predominate maritime influence and in particular the onshore marine effect which delivers fog to much of coastal California in summer. Best weather is from mid-September to June. October is hottest month. December and January are also warm and sunny.

If you are planning to fly to the West Coast to come to Carmel/Monterey, why not fly in and out of the Monterey Airport. You'll like the no-waiting security line, also an excellent restaurant for a meal before you depart and the extra you have to pay for the airfare is saved in travel time and hassle getting to and from Bay Area.

Who should read this?

This guide isn't for everyone. It's what we like and find attractive, interesting, tasteful and of value. If you are under 35, you might find this list a bit staid and prefer the more popular and vibrant attractions in Monterey, Cannery Row and Fisherman's Wharf.

When we go out to dinner, we prefer the casual company of well traveled friends, excellent service, consistently good food and a strong wine list and where you feel you have received value for the hard-earned money you have spent.

There are plenty of other attractions in the region that I have not discussed and that we have not been to - and we hope you have fun discovering them....please feel free to add your comments to this blog in the comments section below... and please visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium it's a must for any first time visitor of any age. 

Why did we do it?

We love this place and have been coming here for 20 years playing golf and having fun. My wife Robin has always wanted to live here and we got that opportunity in 2010, after we returned from living in St Andrews, Scotland for 7 years. We hope by sharing this that you will enjoy some of the best things down here, save time not having to research yourself and enjoy quality food and wine without spending the earth.

The Outdoors

Big Sur

Walking, viewing scenery, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, the best views on the drive from Carmel to Big Sur... it takes longer than you think it will because you will make frequent photo stops.

Point Lobos

Walking and wild-life, outstanding photography of diverse landscape. 5 minutes from Carmel and stunning surf-spray when the swells get over 20 feet in winter... scary but awesome

Elkhorn Slough

  • Kayaking - first rate rental equipment and fairly safe, they make you wear all the clobber which you can hire - (given that kayaks have about the highest fatality rate of anything you can do on the water) - you can swim to the shore and it's seldom rough.
  • Rafts of Sea Otters - that's what you call a bunch Otters that float around together.
  • While you are in Moss Landing, enjoy the fish and chips at Phil's fish market for lunch.

Garrapata State Park

Beach access, walking.

Pebble Beach 17 Mile Drive

Walking, scenery, photography, picnic tables.

Garland Ranch

Walking trails, sunny when its foggy in Carmel.



Recently renovated, outstanding, both courses great, Blackhorse easier, should run under $100 inc. cart.

Poppy Hills

Reopened after renovation. Much improved layout, more fun, better greens, everything is better.

Old Del Monte

Old fashioned layout, small greens, sunny when it's foggy weather.

Monterey Peninsula CC

Private: Both courses outstanding, get a friend to organize a game, most ocean views of all the courses.

Spanish Bay

Interesting, hard, some true links golf, be prepared to lose >6 balls per round if you are not hitting it straight.


Hard, long, play the whites unless you like humiliation.

Quail Lodge

When its foggy in Pebble, its sunny and fun to play here.

Pebble Beach

This is going to run you over $500, but its a bucket-list must-play!

Cypress Point

  • Very Private, Bing Crosby was a member. 
  • Few will play here. The closest most people get is the road that swings past around Cypress Point.
  • This is the finest course I have ever played and I've had the pleasure 3 times.
  • You can go in to the pro-shop and buy an expensive logo-ed shirt or hat - they won't bite you…they just don't want tour buses pulling up.
The 16th at Cypress Point - A 180 yard par 3 into the wind, I hit driver to pin high. 


Pacific Grove

A favorite, sand dabs (a local, sweet, shallow-water fish) outstanding as a starter, best lamb on the best, mesquite-grill, great wine list. Say hello to Pierre for me, French Provencale.
Pebble Beach Insiders love this place - me too, older crowd, great food, service, bargain wines, say hello to Calvin or Michele for me.
Seafood and great wine program
Point Pinos Grill at PG Golf Links
Unsung, but serious food, good value


Busy, American
Indian - ask for it normal spice or it gets dumbed down for American palates and bottoms.
Siamese Bay
Thai - Don't ask for it hot unless you are a masochist


Tapas and vibe, Tempranillo, love this place.
Tommy Woks
Best Chinese - take out, insanely busy, no atmosphere, but food from the wok is fantastic.
Flying Fish
Busy, book
Dametra Cafe
Mediterranean, fun and entertaining, recently doubled inside, so less waiting.
Good pasta, pizza, salumi, sophisticated Vibe, home made mozzarella, love this place.
Andre's Bouchet
Good French traditional and strong French wine-list.
Carmel Grill
Unpretentious, comfortable, reasonable.

Pebble Beach

Roy's, at Spanish Bay
Lunch - have the Asian Chicken Salad with a bottle of Riesling from Germany or Austria.
Stillwater Grill at the Lodge at Pebble Beach
View is worth paying for.

Poppy Hills
Renovated inside as well as the course. Great dining room for lunch or breakfast 7 days a week.

Carmel Valley

Cafe Rustica
French Provincial, a favorite, great for lunch, sit outside
Vineyard Bistro
Breakfast and lunch, al fresco
Baja Cantina
A new find and a hidden gem and fun place to stop on the way back from a wine tasting session in Carmel Vallety for a few cleansing ales. Really good Mexican food, great bar, and party atmosphere. Vintage automobile memorabilia. Thursday night is old car night and an R&B band... book or get there before 5PM.

Breakfast Places
Busy, people spotting
Carmel Belle
After breakfast check out the hat shop in the arcade - excellent hat selection

Pacific Grove
Holly's Lighthouse Cafe

The Bakeries

Paris Bakery
Pacific Grove
Pavel's Bakerie - best 3 seed, 9 grain bread on the planet, chocolate croissants have a wonderful ganache. Closed Sunday
Patisserie Bechler - fruit tarts

Real Ale Pubs

Pacific Grove
Cannery Row Brewing Company
70+ beers on tap

Alvarado Street Bewery
New gastro, brew-pub, buzzy, busy, good food and strong line-up of in-house and guest ales.
Crown and Anchor
Feels like I'm back in London 30 years ago.
Britannia Arms

As close to an English Pub as you can get without the hand-pumped, real ale.
Peter B's Brewpub
In the Portola Hotel

La Playa Hotel
Not your usual bar. Old World bar and a distinctly South of France feel in this hotel. No restaurant, but great bar and lounge, great ales on tap.

Hog's Breath Saloon
Clint Eastwood sold this place 20 years ago, but its still a good spot on a warm day - heaters if its cold.

Driving tours

River Rd. - Jolon - Ferguson-Naciemento Rd - Big Sur
A great day trip; start at Whole Foods, Monterey to pick up a picnic lunch, stop at Hahn for a tasting and pick up a bottle of wine for lunch; picnic at the San Antonio mission at Jolon in Ft Hunter Ligget....beautiful country. A white knuckle drive over the Ferguson-Naciemento Rd up to 3,000 ft. on a narrow Rd. (See "B" Movie, The Wages of Fear to adequately prepare for the drive) - to the coast and stop for a drink at Nepenthe in Big Sur, for stunning views and a bottle of wine from one of the best wine lists between SF and LA. After quenching your thirst, go across the road for dinner at Ventana...serious food and views. If you really want to splurge, Post Ranch is top of the charts and expensive - book to avoid disappointment.

Hearst Castle

Just 90 miles and 2 hours drive from Carmel, but a World apart. Hearst Castle is an unforgettable experience and one to be savored. A visit to the upstairs rooms should be reserved in advance to avoid waiting for afternoon availability.
Lunch at Sebastians general store and a wine tasting of the Hearst Wines in the old Whaling station is a must. A walk onto the jetty and a close up look at whales in the bay in the season. A beautiful drive over the Santa Lucia Highlands on a great new road and a stop to taste wines in Paso Robles in the afternoon. Dinner at the Taproom restaurant at the Firestone Walker Brewery in Paso Robles caps off a great day with a 2 hour drive back to Carmel.

Big Sur/Rocky Point

  • Big Sur - If it's a clear day, go there and enjoy your day, finest scenic views on the West Coast are en-route from Carmel to Big-Sur.
  • Rocky Point Burgers for lunch if you have limited time - go for the view, food is incidental
  • California Cafe at Highlands Inn for lunch, the views are terrific, if you have even less time.
River Rd - Arroyo Seco - Carmel Valley
Solid half day trip, wineries and scenery, there must be 10 tasting rooms in Carmel Valley

Moss Landing

Rafts of Otters, Surf Beach when the swell is up, kayaking, fresh fish and chips for lunch.

17 Mile Drive
Inside Pebble Beach is worth the $10 price of admission....which will be refunded if you buy anything at the restaurants or bars in Pebble Beach.

After 5 cocktails

Clint's Place

Mission Ranch, Carmel - Clint Eastwood sightings are common later in the week after 8.00. Great place for people-watching & cocktails outside, admiring the view toward Pt. Lobos.
 Mission Ranch, Carmel is a favorite spot on a sunny late afternoon

The Fire Pits Spanish Bay

Bring a jacket, it's usually cool, cold if the breeze is blowing. 

Cypress Inn

Dog lovers, love this place. Classy cabaret singer on Friday, Saturday from 7PM

The Bench - Pebble Beach

Good line up of real ales, fine wines, classy place - book for dinner

Take your own picnic and favorite tipple to the picnic tables on corner of 17 mile Drive and Ocean Ave inside Pebble Beach and enjoy beautiful views and the sound of the sea a few yards away.

Concours de Carmel

This is a free warm-up to the Concours de Elegance, held in mid August each year and several hundred cars line up for up-close public viewing in Ocean Ave. Carmel. 
My daughter Olivia at last year's event standing next to a Cadillac 1947 Club Coupe.

A Warning

Monastery Beach and Carmel River Beach are two of the most dangerous beaches on the West Coast and claim unwitting victims every year. I have seen kids playing on these beaches unattended, running down to the waters edge and back up the beach to escape the breaking waves.... only to be bowled over and in serious trouble from a double wave or a bigger wave.

Also sitting on rocks close to the water can be fatal.
Never let your kids play on these beaches as big wave sets can come from nowhere (even on a seemingly calm day) and knock little ones - and adults over. The beaches are very steeply shelving so within one or two paces you are up to your neck and swimming in icy water against strong rips. Be warned and if you have kids, take them to the Carmel River Lagoon where the water is warm and safe - except for the normal pollutants.

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